Career moves at own pace
Having ADHD means that adherence to strict timetables is imperative in a sales job. When you have a supportive and understanding team, you can do your job well and then reward yourself by jumping into ice cold water.
‘What the hell am I doing here?’ Tiina Huovinen asks herself as she dips a toe into 2-degree-celsius water. She is dressed in a warm hat and a swimming costume. The weather in Vehkalahti, Joensuu, is mildly frosty.
‘Well, at least the water is warmer than the air,’ Tiina thinks to herself, closes her eyes and plunges into the freezing cold lake. The chilly air takes her breath away, and her arms and legs feel like they are being pricked by a thousand pins and needles.
A few moments later, Tiina sits in the sauna and concludes that nothing can beat the euphoria after a cold-water swim. ‘Or perhaps when you are doing a hundred kilometers an hour down Ilomantsintie road on a motorbike, but that is more of a summer thing,’ she muses and throws more water onto the hot stones.
She is not listening to what the people next to her are talking about in this sauna, a group from Joensuu’s winter swimming club, Jääkarhut – Polar bears. This is her own private moment of weightlessness, and has been for years.
This sauna is the only place where the 40-year-old Sales Support Specialist does not need anything else to occupy her mind. Here, she can focus on the pleasant feeling of a dopamine rush.
Tiina has been diagnosed with ADHD, and sensory seeking behaviour is one of the common symptoms. Strong sensory input gets the adrenalin flowing and clears the mind. In Tiina’s case, her ADHD means that she prefers to have something to do at all times. Otherwise, her mind becomes cluttered.
‘Thankfully, a large IT firm is seldom a quiet place. Most of the time you are working on a deal with a deadline looming on the horizon,’ Tiina says.
Losing a deal becomes more tolerable when you do your work well
Tiina is responsible for ensuring that quotes sent to potential clients include all the necessary documents and that the right people have been selected for each project. This takes several spreadsheets and a careful study of the type of projects that everyone has worked on previously.
‘I probably know more about my colleagues than they think,’ Tiina says, laughing.
The best way to go about it is to make a quote as a team and for everyone to do their bit, as that is what is required for a successful outcome. It also makes winning feel better. On the other hand, it is important to be able to share reasons for losing a deal with your colleagues too.
Tiina is part of the sales team, and her working partner is Jyri Pötry. Jyri is an important pillar of support for her, and together they process both their successes and failures. Over time, they have become a power duo, working together seamlessly.
‘Even a lost deal is easier to handle when you know that you have done your job well and trust in your work implicitly’.
However, Tiina makes sure that never happens. She and Jyri have set strict deadlines by which the necessary documents must be ready.
This is usually two days before a quote’s official deadline. That allows ample time for adding the final touches and avoiding panic.
‘Jyri knows that I have to do things at my own pace, because of my ADHD. Luckily, we have a nice and functional routine’.
Coffee and conversations about the multiverse
During her free time, Tiina listens to audiobooks on her earphones, practically non-stop.
She is particularly interested in war literature. She listens to books while training at the gym, picking mushrooms, doing cross-stitching or pedalling her 15-minute ride to work. Although for safety reasons she only ever wears one earpiece while cycling.
‘I am particularly fascinated by the human aspect of war. What people have had to endure. War seems like such a distant thing from my own world.’
Being able to talk with her colleagues about more than just work is important to Tiina. And military history is only one of the themes they discuss over a cup of coffee.
‘We talk about a variety of things, such as forestry, genealogy and Karelian culture. I love it when we really delve deep into a topic’.
Even though the people who work at the office are all quite different, many join in conversations with Tiina about things like the multiverse, and soon a whole new world has been created in the break room.
In fact, the people she now works with were one of the main reasons why she applied to Haallas’s parent company, Valamis, after graduating as a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business. By coincidence, she knew several people who were working for Valamis.
‘I used to read their social media posts about their work and thought to myself that I would like to be in a community like that too. I felt very privileged to be accepted’.
Prior to that, Tiina had worked in many roles, such as a cleaner, an assistant and a secretary in a building maintenance company. However, her dream was to work in the technology sector. When a vacancy for a sales support specialist became available at Valamis, Tiina applied for it and got accepted.
Even though she transferred to the subsidiary company, Haallas, she continued to share an office with her old colleagues, as the two companies use the same facilities. This was important to Tiina, because her work community is such a significant part of her working life.
Bags of compost
Tiina’s ADHD can cause sensory overload, and after a day at work she tends to feel too tired to see other people outside her family. Her family understands that in order to wind down, she must be allowed to potter about the house on her own. Once she has recharged her batteries, the family can spend time together; for example at their summer house.
‘The children are already at an age where they have their own things, but they still like to go to the summer house together. And there areplenty of things to do there for everyone’.
Tiina tends to spend a lot of time carrying bags of compost around the summer place. Gardening is one of her dearest hobbies, and she does it both at home and at the summer house. For years now, she has been to the gym three times a week in order to have the stamina to work in the garden, and of course other places.
‘I am also interested in powerlifting. I want to be strong andnd gardening takes a surprising amount of muscle,’ she says, laughing.
Skulls and a skeleton called Hermanni
Tiina is impulsive, and sometimes when inspiration strikes the kitchen cupboards may get a new coat of paint.
Fortunately, Tiina and her husband are on the same wavelength on many things, including decorating.
Scandinavian white does not feature in the family’s home, and neither is their furniture subdued and geometric. Instead, the hallway is green and the kitchen cupboards black. The Chippendale style furniture is curved and elaborate.
Only the sofas are basic and light Ikea-bought ones, but only because they can be easily moved aside while Tiina’s husband has his band practice. The drums are a permanent part of the living room’s decor. The sofa is also Hermanni’s favourite spot. He is a plastic skeleton, originally bought for Halloween.
‘The whole family fell in love with Hermanni, and so he was allowed to stay. He is our mascot,’ Tiina explains.
There is something fascinating about Gothic aesthetics. In addition to her home decor and dressing style, it is reflected in Tiina’s handicrafts.
‘When my colleagues heard that I do cross-stitching, they said that I probably was not going about it the traditional way’.
And sure enough, Tiina’s motifs often include skulls, instead of the more traditional romantic flower patterns. Tiina thinks they are beautiful.
Often while she is stitching, one of the family’s two cats climbs onto her lap. Ritva and Marjatta were both rescued from awful conditions. Ritva has lived with Tiina’s family for 13 years, while Marjatta has been there for two. Having a warm purring cat under her arm and making progress on a piece calms her mind.
‘There are very few things more calming than a purring cat. The frequency of that sound and vibration is completely unique’.
Tiina likes other animals as well. She has occasionally dreamed of having goats in her garden. There is something fascinating and sympathetic about them.
‘Unfortunately, I do not think I would make a good farmer, even though I am originally from the countryside,’ Tiina says with a laugh.
Regular late fee payer
Tiina also loves music, especially hard rock. When she wants to chill, she listens to Lord of the Lost, Nightwish or – if she is feeling a bit more bubbly – Beast in Black, to name a few.
‘Heavy music creates a nice sound barrier. I enjoy the feeling of a fast tempo filling my ears’.
Tiina does not go to gigs, even though Joensuu has plenty of culture to offer, including the rock club Kerubi and the Ilosaarirock festival in the summer.
‘Big crowds are not my thing. I prefer to consume culture by visiting an art museum and the library as a regular late fee payer. Thankfully, both the library and the art museum in Joensuu are fantastic’.
When it comes to social gatherings, Tiina mainly takes part in events organised with colleagues, and her favourites include evenings with wine and painting. Being surrounded by familiar people does not feel like being in a crowd.
‘It is nice to do something completely different from work with your colleagues’.
The next steps
Although work is an important part of Tiina’s life, she does not want it to be the only thing that determines the course of her life.
‘I like to think that work should not cause you so much stress that it begins to have a negative impact on the rest of your life. It is important to find balance’.
She believes that a career path can also run horizontally, not just vertically.
Last autumn, Tiina began studying programming alongside her job, because she wants to understand how the things that she is selling work. Programming allows her to see the results of her work in near real time, while in sales the results do not become apparent until several months down the line. The two are rewarding in different ways.
The lack of women in the programming sector has been evident for years, and that was one of the reasons why Tiina decided to begin her studies.
‘Women are underrepresented in the field. Hiring them is difficult, because many do not yet have a sufficient amount of work experience, which you cannot get if you never get hired in the first place. This needs to change’.
At least initially, Tiina intends to study the basics of programming in the open university of applied sciences in Jyväskylä and see whether she wants to carry on. Her workplace is encouraging her to do this.
It is fairly likely that Tiina will continue to be interested in programming, and not just in the form of studying it.
‘First, I want to find out whether I like it or not. So far, it has been quite enjoyable,’ she says, smiling.
Text: Annika Lius
Photos: Tuomas Kinnunen
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